walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Detroit: Prosecuting the Democratic Mob

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, whom Time magazine called “one of America’s worst mayors”, is now long gone from office, having resigned in 2008 facing a litany of felony charges that would have made Boss Tweed blush in his day. But prosecutors are still uncovering the full extent of the corruption. The Detroit News has the details of the latest charges unveiled in the ever-widening Kilpatrick case:

A Detroit businessman was charged Monday in connection with the FBI probe of the city’s pension funds and is expected to reach a plea deal with federal prosecutors, The Detroit News has learned.

Chauncey Mayfield was charged with bribery and conspiracy following allegations he provided former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and ex-Detroit Treasurer Jeff Beasley with $125,000 worth of private jet flights, Prince concert tickets, steakhouse dinners, golf trips and VIP hotel rooms in Las Vegas.

According to the SEC charges, the lavish gifts for Kilpatrick and Beasley were key to bringing in millions in management and transaction fees out of Detroit’s public pension funds.

Via Meadia is glad to see prosecutors closing in on some of the worst people in the United States, but we think still more work needs to be done. Levels of corruption and malfeasance this brazen cannot have taken place without the knowledge and consent of a great many people along the way.

We shudder to think of the thousands of Detroiters whose pension funds have been looted by these thugs. We’re not up on the details of the law, but we think that perhaps some good class action lawyers might find some interesting lawsuit opportunities in Detroit, as well as other American cities where entrenched, corrupt political machines systemically misspend public funds year after year. Can you say “fiduciary duty?” Can you say “reckless disregard”? Does the prudent person standard apply here?

There are a lot of machine politicians out there now living lives of ease and plenty on money they got from defrauding widows and orphans. It would appear that there are a lot of i-bankers and crony capitalists who eased up on their due diligence standards to get fat fees for teaming up with crooks and thugs. We imagine some good lawyers could do well by filing a class action suit or two. And who knows? Some justice might even be done.

We hear an awful lot about heartless predatory corporations, but corrupt urban machines prey more viciously on the poor than does any corporation. Kids have been defrauded of education, pensioners are now looking at insecurity and cutbacks in their retirement years, homeowners have been ruined by failures of governance, and businesses have been destroyed—by failures of governance, by bureaucratic ineptitude, and by systemic corruption.

There are cities in this country where party organizations have become indistinguishable from criminal enterprises. Some smart lawyers could do a lot of good by ripping the curtain of denial aside. If Teddy Roosevelt were around today, this is the kind of issue the Bull Moose would be charging head on.

There are a lot of people who want to see this as a Kwame Kilpatrick problem: a lone individual gone rogue. But it is much bigger and much worse. It is a Detroit problem and a Democratic machine problem. And Detroit is not alone. The vigorous enforcement of federal, state and local law, accompanied by civil actions in which victims can sue for redress, is a necessary first step in cleaning up and renewing our cities, and it is long past time to begin.

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